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  November 2004
volume 2 number 4
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  home   (archived)
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  Steve Abee
  Neil Aitken
  Larry Colker
  Nimah Nawwab
  Alice Pero
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Neil Aitken November 2004



Rev. Dave Wheeler

    Born in 1974 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Neil Aitken was raised in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the United States, and Canada. He has lived in a wide variety of communities: from small farming towns in northern Saskatchewan to the industrial districts of Taipei City. Over the course of his 30 years, he has been a farm laborer, an artist, a missionary, a university student, a math tutor, a computer games programmer, and now a graduate student.
    Since moving to California, he has become an active participant and regular feature at many poetry readings throughout southern California. His work has appeared in Inscape, Anagram, and Prairie Poetry. He recently started work on an MFA in Creative Writing at UC Riverside where he serves as the assistant poetry editor of their new graduate journal, CRATE.



Forgetting to Fill Up in Saskatoon

We ran on empty for an hour,

three boys in a borrowed car,

miles away from anywhere

but these dead farm towns,

without street lamps or oil.

Just burnt out gas stations

and the low moans of cattle

shifting in the dark.

Dry as December, we coasted

all the way home, whispering prayers

and holding our breath as if to lighten

the load till the faint lines of the city

rose at the edge of our view,

like the far off fires of a familiar shore,

and we pulled ourselves in

as weary men, tired of the sea.

(Previously published in Prairie Poetry, Dec. 2003)

copyright 2004 Neil Aitken



Counting Winters in Los Angeles

I no longer mark what falls in passing,

iron stones blazing through the night sky,

leaves turning dry in the autumn breeze,

or old men curled around fires

watching yesterday's news offered up

as ashes to the dark.

Hiding in the concrete-celled city,

my head is full of another country's snow,

a loose wind blowing through my room

at night, when I cannot sleep

and lie to myself in dreams

I've committed to memory.

I am a stranger to the city that burns

with too much neon, too much wine.

Each night I wind my sun-burnt car

through towers of glass and steel,

listen to the radiant hum of static,

the muted signal of an invisible sun,

the slow ticking questions keeping time.

What winter will take me home

down an ice-covered road

past the gray boarded shacks,

beyond the bending river's spine,

then plant me low

beneath the white-haired trees?

What wind will wrap itself

around my waist, and lower me down

to sleep and distant rain?

copyright 2004 Neil Aitken




Nothing moves at noon.

The sun halts mid-sky, a pensive fire

burning above the jagged heaves

of stalled cars on freeways,

the long lines of steel joined at a distant edge.

From my window

I can only see an old man

atop the last parking tower

pressing lips to brass, fingering notes.

He breathes a low sigh into the world

repeating blues in secondhand time,

a lone trumpeter calling Jericho down.

copyright 2004 Neil Aitken